From Cate Roman, A Graphically Inspiring and Civically Engaging Course

Cate Roman and her Graphic Design 3 Students
Cate Roman (center)  and her Graphic Design 3 students

As Professor Cate Roman sees it, graphic design can be – should be — a catalyst for awareness, enlightenment and, at its best, social change.

 This semester, Roman, along with the Graphic Design Department, is again putting that belief into action in the form of her Graphic Design 3 course, a transformative experience for all concerned.  As the course description puts it, GD3 is “an advanced studio providing a civically engaged experience in the study and application of graphic systems: Students will develop a comprehensive design system for a sponsoring client, exploring issues of research, analysis, audience, identity, and presentation.”

The course description doesn’t mention inspiration, but that figures to be present in abundance. “Inspiration” is not only who that client is – literally, Shane’s Inspiration – but the effect the organization has on just about everyone it touches.  Shane’s Inspiration’s vision: to foster a bias-free world for children with disabilities, creating inclusive playgrounds and programs that unite children of all abilities.

“To mark the organization’s twentieth anniversary, Shane’s Inspiration has asked us to help create a new visual presence in the world as they move forward,” Roman says. “Woodbury Graphic Design students will develop a comprehensive, coordinated design system to promote Shane’s Inspiration as the organization transitions to a new name: ‘Boundless Playgrounds by Shane’s Inspiration.’

“We’ll be creating a logo, a stationery system, a brochure, a media kit folder, possible information inserts, the design for a website, and promotional materials,” she says. At the conclusion of the course, each of the 15 students will present his or her complete design system, one of which will be selected as the winner.

The project launched in mid-January and field work – at Rocket’s Universe, North Weddington Park, in North Hollywood — began a week later.  Students presented to the client on Feb. 22, with the final client presentation set for May 3.

“In addition to graphic design needs around the branding of Boundless Playgrounds, students will be mindful of the way the organization communicates with potential donors, who might fund the building of these playgrounds or underwrite educational programs to build playgrounds that both able-bodied and disabled children can play in together,” Roman says.

“Shane’s Inspiration was thrilled to partner with Woodbury on creation of the new brand, since they hadn’t had a college group participate in their education program to this point,” she notes. “They told us that getting students out there to play with the disabled kids on the inclusive playground was wonderful for them.  Same for us — it really is inspiring.”

Shane’s Inspiration: The Backstory

Shane’s Inspiration’s Social Inclusion Education Program is a means of deepening social inclusion on elementary and secondary school campuses while reducing bias and bullying toward children with disabilities.

In 1997, Shane Alexander Williams came into his parents’ lives for a beautiful but brief moment. Born with spinal muscular atrophy, Shane passed away two weeks after his birth.  Through their profound grief, Catherine Curry-Williams and Scott Williams began searching for a way to honor their son’s life.  They soon realized that Shane’s disability would have prevented him from playing on a playground with other children.  At that time, there were no truly accessible playgrounds in the Western United States.

A year later, Catherine, Scott, and close friend Tiffany Harris were rallying friends, family, and community leaders to build the very first Universally Accessible Playground in California.  In 2000, they cut the ribbon on “Shane’s Inspiration Playground” in L.A.’s Griffith Park, beginning a wave of inclusive play that would change Los Angeles forever.

Shane’s Inspiration has grown from that one playground to a network of 65 inclusive playgrounds throughout the world, with another 75 in development. The organization has eight international playgrounds in Mexico, Israel, Canada, Ecuador and Russia.  Its education and community outreach programs, which work to eliminate bias against children with disabilities, have directly served in excess of 40,000 children in more than 150 schools.  Its Inclusion Education Program, which enables educators an opportunity to independently facilitate its education program, is in place in some 50 countries around the world.

In 2013, Shane’s Inspiration made a commitment to establish its mission on five continents by 2018.  In 2015, the organization made a second commitment to promote literacy through play in partnership with Too Small To Fail and Landscape Structures Inc.  Today, the organization’s vision is to foster a bias-free world for children with disabilities.  Its mission is to create inclusive playgrounds and programs that unite children of all abilities.

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